THINGS WE LEARNED. ROLAND-GARROS 2020.

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THINGS WE LEARNED. ROLAND-GARROS 2020.
A host of title favourites live up to top billing as a barrage of debutants come knocking at the door…
In this most unprecedented staging of Roland-Garros in a most unconventional year, it was always safe to expect a heavy dose of the unexpected.
While the leading title contenders have shone some 17 pretenders outside the top 100 across both men’s and women’s draws reached the third round.
Here are the top takeaways from a unique week one of Roland-Garros 2020…
Men’s favourites raise the bar

Three names stood tall as the men to beat for this year’s Coupe des Mousquetaires when Roland-Garros first threw open its gates again in September.
Much was made of how underdone second seed Rafael Nadal and third seed Dominic Thiem might be without the matches on the red stuff under their belts coming in.
Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, had the runs on the board having filed his shock US Open disqualification to the back of his memory bank to land a record 36th Masters 1000 crown in Rome.
If all three started as title favourites, that has only been further established in the week since. Yet to have dropped a set between them, all three emphatically allayed any concerns about working their way into a slower, heavier Roland-Garros than usual.
Djokovic was particularly stingy, surrendering five games at most in each match, while he and Nadal each picked off a couple of bagel sets. Thiem, with arguably the toughest draw, handled with ease former US Open champion Marin Cilic, former No.8 Jack Sock and in-form dirt-baller Casper Ruud.

Revenge a dish served best with bagel and breadstick

Three names stood tall as the men to beat for this year’s Coupe des Mousquetaires when Roland-Garros first threw open its gates again in September.
Much was made of how underdone second seed Rafael Nadal and third seed Dominic Thiem might be without the matches on the red stuff under their belts coming in.
Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, had the runs on the board having filed his shock US Open disqualification to the back of his memory bank to land a record 36th Masters 1000 crown in Rome.
If all three started as title favourites, that has only been further established in the week since. Yet to have dropped a set between them, all three emphatically allayed any concerns about working their way into a slower, heavier Roland-Garros than usual.
Djokovic was particularly stingy, surrendering five games at most in each match, while he and Nadal each picked off a couple of bagel sets. Thiem, with arguably the toughest draw, handled with ease former US Open champion Marin Cilic, former No.8 Jack Sock and in-form dirt-baller Casper Ruud.

Here come the 2000s

Sebastian Korda, son of 1992 finalist and 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and former world No.26 Regina Rajchrtova, had pedigree on his side.
With two older sisters already professional golfers, it was time for the youngest of the athletically blessed family to make his mark. After winning through qualifying, the 20-year-old became the first man born in the 2000s to reach the second week at Roland-Garros with his defeat of Spain’s Pedro Martinez.
The 20-year-old American became the lowest-ranked man – at No.213 – to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam since Guillermo Cañas at the 2004 Australian Open.
Korda barely had time to let that record sink in before it was broken less than two hours later, when world No.239 French wild card Hugo Gaston stole his thunder. The pair became the first men’s players ranked outside the top 200 to reach the last 16 at Roland-Garros since Arnaud di Pasquale in 2002.

Biggest upset of week one

The 20-year-old Gaston had never won a tour-level match before Roland-Garros and had lost four straight Challenger main draw matches.
Fair to say a run to the third round to face former champion Stan Wawrinka was an achievement in itself.
Few expected him to top that career highlight to date with victory over the triple Grand Slam winner, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
“For the moment it’s a dream,” Gaston said. “Now I play [Roland-Garros]. Before I always watching this in TV. Today I can play in these courts, so it’s amazing for me.”
Gaston became the first French player to reach the fourth round in his Roland-Garros debut since Patrice Dominguez in 1971 and is guaranteed to leave Paris with $221,485 in prize money should he fall to Thiem. He had $171,247 in career earnings to his name before the tournament.

Father Time bearing down on Williams

Following a semi-final defeat to Victoria Azarenka in last month’s US Open, Serena Williams immediately set about rehabilitating her body and beginning the transition to clay, training in the south of France.
And so began the 39-year-old’s 10th Grand Slam campaign with a record-equalling 24th major trophy on the line. After a first-round victory over Kristie Ahn an Achilles ailment forced her withdrawal ahead of a clash with Tsvetana Pironkova.
“I’m so close to some things, so I feel like I’m almost there,” Williams said after her withdrawal. “I think that’s what keeps me going.”
It now means Williams has not won a major since the 2017 Australian Open – the longest Slam drought in her 22 years on tour.

Streaks alive and on the line

Following the tour’s resumption from a pandemic hiatus, building momentum has become quite the challenge given the lack of events. But after his extraordinary breakthrough to win the US Open trophy last month, Thiem seamlessly switched to the red dirt in Paris to carry a 10-match winning streak into the fourth round.
After his US Open disqualification, Djokovic has reeled off eight wins on the trot on clay, including a title in Rome, as has Andrey Rublev, on the back of a trophy in Hamburg.
Frenchwoman Fiona Ferro has carried a title run from Palermo to reach eight straight wins heading into her fourth round against Sofia Kenin, while Elina Svitolina’s Strasbourg title has her poised on seven.
Halep enters her last-16 meeting with Swiatek riding a 17-match winning streak that started back in February.

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